The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh was one of our faculty/staff summer reading choices. It’s a good, entry-level exploration of bias and offers tools to be a better person, colleague, friend, etc. If you haven’t read much on equity or done much anti-bias work, this is a good starting place. If you have done some of this work already, you will find this to be review work. Nevertheless, it’s an approachable text with interesting stories, real-life scenarios, and things to ponder. I enjoyed it.
As you know, I am a sucker for a memoir. Once More We Saw Stars by Jason Greene has garnered five stars for 119 reviews on Amazon, which seemed like a good barometer. While it was a really tough read, it was a very well-written one. Jayson’s two-year-old daughter was on a walk with her grandmother and was killed when a brick fell of a building. The book tells both of this event, the aftermath, and how the Jayson and his wife cope with the unspeakable. It was heart-wrenching, but beautiful and worth picking up.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn has been on a number of recent booklists. I never did read Quinn’s previous book, The Alice Network, having grown tired of WWII, but I thought I would pick this one up anyway, since it’s been a while since I delved into that era. This is a great choice, though far too long (500+ pages). It took me a while to get through it, but I really did enjoy it. I might have liked it more, had it been not quite so long and dense. It tells three stories of Nina, Ian, and Jordan, and weaves all these stories together, both past and present. Of course, I liked the historical fiction-aspect, and the bringing together of all the characters, but I also liked the WWII without the gore and depression (though those are undercurrents for sure). If you have time and patience and like Kate Quinn, I would definitely grab this one. If you are looking for a lighter, breezy read, put this on a list for later.
The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda was an OK psychological thriller. It was also written in very large print (though not labelled as such), so it was a quick read. Jane is coming back to life after spending a year on various medications for depression since the loss of her older daughter in an accident. In the time when she was medicated, all kinds of bad things happened to her family, but she is determined to set it all straight AND exact revenge. The plot was somewhat interesting and the Jane’s character development was very good, but the ending wasn’t too surprising and overall the story wasn’t too believable. I wouldn’t bother with this one if I were you.
Boy am I sorry I read The Map That Leads to You by J. P. Monninger (though perhaps my tip-off should have been the quote by Nicholas Sparks on the cover!!!). The first two-thirds were decent – a nice love story with some twists, but mostly just nice. The last third, though, were predictable and then just sad. It’s the typical college students go on European vacation after graduating and fall in love as they travel to amazing places. But, I was really disappointed in this one. Not only for the predictability, but also because there could have been so much more. It was a quick read, so I didn’t waste too much time on it, but for such an amazing start, I was really let down.
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark is not the type of book I usually choose. However, I heard about it because of a podcast I have dipped my toes into (and will try again since I enjoyed the book), “My Favorite Murder.” The authors give advice and tell the stories of their lives in this book. They grew up in the same era I did, which made it a little like enjoying Stranger Things. It’s a good and quick read – kinda like Jenny Lawson, though not as funny – grab it!
Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women taught me about something I knew nothing about: Korean all-female diving collectives. The story, while interesting, was too slow for me. I enjoyed the characters and thought the plot and the history were interesting, but it got bogged down and took me too long to get through. She could have cut 50-100 pages and been both more efficient and, to me, more engaging. Overall, while I did like this one, I didn’t love it enough to recommend. Hoping my next choice is better…
I have read more posts and seen more people reading Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips this summer than any other book. It’s supposed to be about two girls who disappear in Russia. Each chapter is a different perspective from characters who are supposed to finally weave together. I, however, really disliked this one. Not only was the story not really about the two girls, but the rest of the characters weren’t particularly interesting and I really had to push myself to finish. I kept thinking the mystery would be solved at the end, which is why I persevered. Ug. Don’t bother with this one (or tell me what I missed…).
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is my favorite book of the summer so far. I was about to cast it aside as magical realism (which I dislike greatly), but stuck with it and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a bit like Where the Crawdads Sing at fist, and a smidge shallow at points, but overall, it’s a really interesting and creative story. Emmeline lives an ideal life with her dad on a deserted island. He teaches her all about the world by channeling her senses. He, in fact, can capture smell in bottles, which he does with the help of a special machine. But, as you can imagine, their idyllic existence doesn’t last forever and the ensuing story is a neat one. It was a perfect beach choice!
From Scratch by Tembi Locke is another hard-to-read memoir (not because it isn’t well-written, but because the subject is difficult). It’s the story of Locke’s recovery from her husband’s death. Back and forth, we learn the story of their relationship, love, and family. It’s both touching and interesting – the descriptions of Sicilian food are mouth-watering – and an enjoyable, if sad, choice. Well done, Reese!